Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 331d

Josh McCown's solid start a good news-bad news situation for Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Turns out the old dude still has some life left in that well-traveled right arm. Josh McCown, 38 years young, won his first start since Oct. 11, 2015. His signature moment was a 69-yard bomb to Robby Anderson, which resembled Ken O'Brien-to-Wesley Walker from a bygone era -- and no, his arm didn't fall off. McCown kept slinging, endearing himself to his New York Jets teammates and coaches with their first win of the season.

Don't look now, but McCown is playing well -- a 70 percent completion rate and a 91.3 passer rating through three games. In fact, he's playing so well that he's messing up the master plan at quarterback -- or a least the plan everybody assumed would unfold. He was supposed to be a short bridge to Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg or, pardon the mixed metaphor, just a loosely attached Band-Aid.

It's not working out that way. After dominating the Miami Dolphins 20-6 on Sunday, the Jets are 1-2, with winnable games upcoming against the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) and Cleveland Browns (0-3). If this keeps up, it might be a while before we see Petty or Hackenberg, barring an injury.

"I thought he was very efficient," Jets coach Todd Bowles said of McCown. "Josh has been playing well for the last three weeks. He controlled the offense. He sees things. He's playing smart football."

McCown is the ideal quarterback for the Jets' rebuilding season because he's unselfish and intelligent, meaning he can lead the young players and teach them at the same time. He's also an eternal optimist, a must on a team that will encounter its share of adversity. He's the anti-Jay Cutler, who was so demoralized by Sunday's beatdown that he started flinging passes off his back foot, acting like he wanted to get back to South Florida as soon as possible. It certainly worked out well in the offseason, when the Jets ended up with McCown over Cutler.

Facing a stout defensive front, McCown completed 18 of 23 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown, while committing no turnovers. He won't excite too many fantasy owners with those kind of stat lines, but the Jets don't live in a fantasy world. Their reality is rebuilding, taking small steps, week by week. His touchdown pass to Anderson, which came after a big play was negated by a Wesley Johnson holding penalty, was a shining example of turning a negative into a positive.

"I think that's good for us as we build," McCown said. "Those are kind of bricks in the process that you stack because it grows you."

Some might say the Jets are wasting time with McCown, claiming every snap he takes is one less snap for Petty or Hackenberg. That's a bunch of hooey. His ability to function as a competent quarterback allows the offense to develop in its new system. You wouldn't get that with Petty or Hackenberg.

At some point, Bowles has to let one (or both) start games, because the Jets need an evaluation of Petty and Hackenberg before next spring's draft. But that's no longer as imperative as it seemed at the start of training camp. Hackenberg showed in the preseason he isn't close to being ready, and Petty isn't viewed by the organization as the long-term answer.

For now, and for longer than anyone envisioned, the Jets' mantra is: "In Josh We Trust."

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